Diary 101 Entry 3
Where have I been? That is something I have been asking my self lately. My dream for quite some time has to be able to have my own blog/website. Here I am with the opportunity I have dreamed of and I have been neglecting it. I, in a lot of ways have been neglecting myself as well. How? I have been hiding from life.
As most of you know, I have been going to therapy for a few months now. Recently I added a psychiatrist to my agenda. I went back and forth about this decision for several reasons. I knew I didn’t want medications as in the past they always made me feel numb. I was also scared to get really in depth and unpack alot of things that had been dormant with this new psychiatrist. My therapist said to me, “I’d love for you to see this psychiatrist so I can get feed back on how to help you”.
Wow! I already loved my therapist but here she is saying she really wants to help me and admits she needs back up. New feelings sprung up, all of it helping me to pull myself together. In the past, therapists I worked with have seemed so full of them selves and sure they knew exactly what I needed that her admission was like a blast of fresh air. So, I made the appointment and totally did not sleep the night before. I knew all emotions were going to be drudged up if I really wanted help. That was a new feeling for me … I really wanted help, not just to be medicated and sent on my way. I wanted to stop having these tormenting feelings, life altering moods, and pain. In short, most of all I wanted the pain to go away.
I know I don’t speak for everyone but I do know for a lot of us we get very wrapped up in “saying the right things” so we can get medication. This stems from lots of pain and wanting it to end without doing the work. Doing the work though can bring us to a better outcome even though it is painful. Doing the work, for me, it means a lot of things. One – it means facing my feelings and speaking them. Two – it also means taking what we talk about in therapy and going on and speaking about it, thinking about it, and seeing how it affects me.
So, the morning of the psychiatric visit came I was so tired that morning I almost called and cancelled. Then I figured it would take more energy to make the calls to cancel my ride and my appointment then it would to actually go there and do the appointment. So I went, and for an hour I rehashed my life, my pain, and my insecurities. At the end…. my life changed.
This quiet tiny lady, who I’m sure is way younger than me sits there and says, “Wow, your life… The fact you have survived says a lot in its self” (paraphrased). Then she said something to me that would in fact change everything, it would make me question everything I have ever done and or said. She repeated what my therapist had said the appointment before: “I DO NOT THINK YOU ARE BIPOLAR”. Excuse my French but <WTF>… What do you mean I’m not bipolar??? I have been bipolar since I was 13. She patiently, and quietly says to me, “I feel you have been misdiagnosed. I believe that you have PTSD.” I left her office later contemplating life and wondering who Evie even is? (LOL which isn’t even my real name).
Misdiagnosed? Was this new psychiatrist crazy? I decided to give it a moment and let it sink in. I begun going back to when I was 13 and remembered the care I received after I fell into a sleeping/coma type state for three days from taking too many pills. This led me to begin to think about my entire life. Had I in fact survived trauma that was beyond normal people’s ability to withstand? Was that psychotic break in my early 20’s a real break and not just a side effect of being bipolar? Were the multiple personalities that I had in my 20’s real? You mean it wasn’t just me being bipolar and acting out? Who am I if not bipolar?
I had a therapist appointment the next week and I asked her, “Who am I if not bipolar”? She replied, “That is something you have to ask yourself and find the answer.” I told her I feel strange saying I have PTSD. I don’t deserve the title of something so bad. She asked me why not? Do you not think what you have gone through time and time again is bad? I said I don’t think it is as bad as people with PTSD from like the war or rapes etc. She then said something to me that I will never forget. (paraphrasing) “Your life has not been normal, the trauma you have gone through over and over is not normal, NO ONE should have to live with the trauma you have had to endure.”
BOOM!!! My life changed. Suddenly I was not living with something that would never go away. Suddenly I was living with something that could be treated and could potentially one day go away or be so very faint it does not affect me as much. Why? Why did I have to reach 41 years of age to feel some form of hope for my future?
A lot of things went on in my mind since that first visit with my new psychiatrist and the therapy sessions there after. There was a lot of self-reflection. I even told my mom (my childhood abuser) what the psychiatrist said and how it affected me. I didn’t want to cause my mom pain, but as she had became the person I talk to and love very much, I needed to tell her. We spoke about it and moved past it. I don’t know if I will be bringing up anything else with her and my mental health. It is almost better that I don’t.
Fast forward to my second visit with the Psychiatrist – the topic of medications come up. Let me give you some back story on this. I had been in so much physical pain since the winter to the point I could not function. Everything I did was so painful and my life was slowing down more and more. So I had seen my general doctor, bone doctor, etc. They decided to put me on medication for my fibromyalgia to see if that was the main source of the pain. The medicine, just a week in, changed everything. Pain was bearable and sometimes gone completely. However, I was having one side effect that trust me no woman wants to have (another blog post altogether.) So, I mention to my psychiatrist that this was a side effect and I was stressed by it. She tells me that she had been thinking about it and knew of a drug that would help my anxiety and OCD as well as possibly counteract the horrible side effect of the fibro drug. While I was not happy about taking more medications, I felt reassured that this time I’m not taking things to numb me but to change my life for the better.
Now a year later, here we are. I have a new psychiatrist due to my other one leaving the practice. The meds have been switched up several times trying to find what works for me to sleep, for flashbacks, for pain, and for the PTSD itself. Thankfully the cocktail that I am on now seems to be working well and I am having good success. I had not been on medications for my mental issues for a four-year window of time so going back on something and admitting I needed it was all a very big deal for me. I have finished the PTSD group and have moved on to another group that is based on helping us form skills that will protect us in our every day lives as well as how to handle our selves in all situations. This group, DBT group, has changed my life once again.
DBT is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which is a type of Cognitive Behavior therapy. DBT basically teaches us how to stay focused in the moment, how to improve our relationship with others, and how to cope with all the stress we have. Isn’t it odd to think that we can literally change an entire situation by just choosing the right words or making educated decisions based off real techniques that teach you how to make decisions?
My personal therapist had begun DBT therapy with me previously, but we were using the topic that is mostly the blame for my PTSD and it was just too soon. I was not learning the tools I needed and I was just too stressed out over the topic. At that point it became more about doing the paper work or the lack of me understanding how to do the work and less on the actual need to address my PTSD.
This is when the DBT group came about. This group is a space where you are allowed to mention the original issues of your PTSD but mainly you just focused on relevant daily needs. The group is led by two therapists, and we are doing it over Zoom. I am so relieved and also exhausted after group is over. I try and take it all in and I feel heard in this group. I don’t feel belittled or picked on. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone. I show up each week, and I am there to learn through my therapist and hear the issues from other group members and learn from them as well. My goal is to be able to use these tools and be able to revisit the DBT with my therapist on the topic of my PTSD.
The best advice I can give you? Don’t give up on therapy. Open yourself up to doing the hard work, and don’t think you have to settle with the first therapist you talk to. Go with your instincts – do you and the therapist hit it off? If so, great. If not advocate for yourself by saying something like, “I am thankful you have taken time to see me. I am giving therapy a chance because I need to heal and I just do not think I can do my healing with you, could you please give me a referral to another therapist that is in my insurances network?” Remember – this can be hard, but you are worth having someone you are comfortable to talk to. You are worth the effort in the long run.